Is the stress of college truly worth it? Let’s take a look

Hello, readers! As of now, students of CSU are approaching the start of spring semester after a much-needed winter break. Hopefully, you are looking forward to new classes and experiences, but even if not, consider that you are one semester closer to progressing along your career path! However, on the topic of not feeling thrilled about college, a certain question arises–and it is likely one that every person in college has asked at least once, even if facetiously: Is it worth it? Well, first, let’s look into the reasons why students may ask this.
Think of your first semester of college. How did you feel at the time? What about halfway through the semester? A couple semesters later? When I first started college, I was ecstatic about the different environment–the new options available to me for jobs, extracurriculars, classes and pathways, even how I decided to dress each day. Since I was dual enrolling at the time, I was able to compare and contrast the two environments, which made me further appreciate the autonomy and exploration afforded in college. However, as time passed, I began to notice the tradeoffs: the costs of not only tuition but also various fees and supplies like textbooks, the increased workload per class (especially once you advance to upper level courses), the need for a job that demands your time outside of class and homework, and the pressure to not only make all A’s (which we discussed in a previous post) but to also participate in extracurriculars like research, major-specific organizations, editing, volunteer work, and so on. Quite simply, college can become overwhelming–and fast. Many students find themselves awash in stress not only due to their coursework, jobs, and extracurricular activities but also because they are unsure of how much they can afford or are already accruing debt. And debt is scary because it is something that can haunt students for several years and thus may delay or even prevent them from achieving certain goals. Additionally, it means that most students are limited not only in time but also money, which can lead to unhealthy diets, little to no physical activity (outside of walking to class, that is), and unsatisfactory living arrangements among other things–all of which can layer on even more stress. So, in the midst of studying for five different exams, working one or two part-time jobs, lending time to local organizations, and contemplating whether or not there’s enough time to cook a decent meal, it’s not surprising that a question regarding the cost-benefit analysis of college should pop up.

So then…what are the benefits of college?

Well, first (and most obviously), college is the route many of us have to take to reach our careers. If you’re committed to a career plan–which college can also aid you in discovering–then college is something you must do, whether you mostly love it or trundle through it begrudgingly. And hey, if you’re really interested in a college-backed career, the major-specific material you learn should at least fuel some motivation. (And if not, really reflect on why. College isn’t for everyone, and there are certainly positions we need that require little to no college education.) On top of it being a requisite for most careers, college is also the melting pot of melting pots; it is a rare college experience indeed if you go through without encountering someone with different viewpoints, personality, and habits. And meeting and interacting with these people is what feeds into our identities, expands our knowledge, strengthens our sensitivity and open-mindedness, and ultimately prepares us for the world outside of college. As a nursing example, consider working with a patient who is Native American. As a cultural difference, Native Americans view health as a composite of physical, emotional, and spiritual factors, and in addition to that, they also often express psychological conditions like depression in physical terms. Why is that important? Quite frankly, respecting and integrating your patient’s values and beliefs into your care is integral to improving their health and may even be necessary for accurate treatment.
Now, it has become clear that a college degree raises the chances of getting employed, earning a high(er) salary, and altogether promoting a better lifestyle thereafter (though this is not always the case, as these things are never without exceptions, and it is possible to work a career without a college background and still financially support oneself, just less likely). But what is a more implicit advantage of college–but a significant one nonetheless–is that it can reduce your risks of physical and psychiatric disease. Granted, college can increase risks both short-term and long-term for health disorders related to stress (particularly autoimmune diseases and chronic diseases), poor diet, and inadequate activity levels. However, this does not negate the fact that college also provides protective factors for health. This is linked to the higher salaries and greater financial stability (which then affects diet, exercise, personal enrichment, etc.), yes. But it is also influenced by the social support systems and intellectual stimulation college can offer. One shining example is that the risk of developing major neurocognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s can be lessened through mental challenge, such as through learning new things (especially if you have to work hard—more of a reason to not hate algebra or physics?)
Let’s ask the question again: Is college worth it? As usual, the answer is that it depends. If your career lists it as a requirement (and you are passionate about and dedicated to that path), then absolutely. And if not, weigh the costs and benefits carefully, and don’t forget to think of the future that accompanies each route. But if you can minimize the negatives, college can be exciting, eye-opening, and very much worth the sacrifices. But as always, don’t just take my word for it; go out and do some research (especially if you’re still not so sure)! Regardless of your choice, I wish you the best in the time to come.

Nursing students unite!